August 17, 2008

To Love, Honor, and Cherish

My husband and I are celebrating the seventh anniversary of our marriage this week. Seven years!

Every anniversary I listen to the recording of our wedding ceremony. We were married in the church my dad pastored for 30 years. My dad did the ceremony, so it’s mostly his voice on the recording. You can kind of hear my voice replying “I will” and “I do” and you can definitely hear my husband’s voice as he responds with his “I dos” and “I wills.”

The vows always make me think. We went with traditional vows. There was something special to me about repeating the same words that others have said for generations. I love the solemnity of the vows, and the covenant we made together, before God and before family and friends, is something that we both hold sacred. We made a commitment to love, honor, and cherish one another. To be faithful to the other as long as we both shall live. To live together through better or worse, sickness and health.

When I think about those vows, and now looking back over our marriage, I think the most difficult promise to keep has been our commitment to love, honor, and cherish. It’s the “squishy” part of the vows. Staying faithful is pretty clear cut. Remaining committed to the person through better or worse, sickness and health is easy to understand (not always easy to do, but easy to understand). But learning how to love someone, honoring them every day, and cherishing a person through those easy and hard, sick and healthy times, isn’t so easy.

We’ve talked, my husband and I, about what it means to love. What it means to show love, express love, in a such a way that it resonates with the other person. It has been an ongoing conversation for us over the years, as we have both changed as people and as our life together has changed. There are things that he has done for me, and I for him, over the years that were expressions of love and affection, but it doesn’t really “work” because it doesn’t mean “love” to the other person.

For instance, I don’t like florist flowers. And grocery store flowers are, in my book, the worst. I would much rather have my husband show his affection toward me by cutting a couple roses from the bushes in our garden, and bringing them to me. I’ve shared this with him on several occasions. He didn’t understand it for the longest time. He thought it was too easy, that it was some kind of Jedi mind trick I was trying to pull on him. Until one day he did it. I was delighted. He’s done it consistently for me ever since, and I am always thrilled to have the fresh flowers in the house.

He has, since then, asked me for a list of things to do that will help him show his love toward me in a way that I understand. But I don’t think love, let alone marriage, can be reduced down to a list. It is far too complex and nuanced to rely on a list of do’s and don’ts. And our preferences, expectations, and likes and dislikes change too much as people (and as women!) for a list to stay current. But if I were to make such a list, here’s what it would say:

1. Love first. Not only be the first to express love, but let love be your first response in every situation.

2. Love more. When you think you can’t love more, do. When you think you can’t keep going, take another step. When you think the other person doesn’t care, show how much you care.

3. Love consistently. Show love, and be loving, every day.

I’m fairly certain that if we both keep these three things in mind, our marriage will not only last for another 60 years, but will also flourish.


madrekarin said...

I think you are right. :) That is a lovely post.
Happy Anniversary!!

Anonymous said...

"...just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her." Eph. 5:25 That takes cares of a TON of self-centeredness, doesn't it? Thanks for ministering to me with your thoughts and feelings.

Anonymous said...

I found your blog through my wife's blog and put two and two together. Your blog has been great to read and see God shining through you in your circumstances. You were always good with your words! :) We love you and are praying for you during this time in your life! And sorry for the mixup a few weeks back, I really am.


Denise K. said...

Happy Anniversary! We have one coming up too and I really liked your thoughts and comments about loving more! Thanks for sharing!